UCLA 71, Georgetown 70
Only the names of the celebrating opponents seem to change for Georgetown, its late-game misery steady as a virus that cannot be shaken. It was UCLA prancing off the MCI Center court yesterday after a 71-70 victory that sent the spiraling Hoyas to their fifth straight loss and continued to dent their chances of making any postseason tournament.
"So many games this year, we're just right there," power forward Mike Sweetney said. "Next thing you know, a mistake or something happens that causes us to lose."
On Tuesday is a once-unthinkable situation for the Hoyas: a road game against Rutgers to avoid last place in the Big East Conference. Rutgers beat Boston College yesterday to pull even with Georgetown at 2-6 in the West Division. Georgetown beat Rutgers at home about two weeks ago. The last-place team in each division is not invited to the league tournament.
Also, some Georgetown fans were publicly sour on Coach Craig Esherick, chanting at game's end: "Esherick must go."
Esherick has two more years on his contract after this season and has been negotiating an extension with school officials.
As far as how setbacks in seven of the last eight games have affected negotiations, Director of Athletics Joe Lang said: "Not at all. Not at all."
This was the fourth loss in the five-game slide that has been decided by a point or in overtime. And an exceedingly ordinary UCLA team ended its longest losing streak since the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration by the margin of usually shaky point guard Cedric Bozeman sinking two free throws with 4.9 seconds left and playing fine defense on Drew Hall on the last play.
Bozeman ended up on the line after a scramble with the shot clock winding down.
"I stripped him," freshman forward Brandon Bowman said. "But he got it right back. And as soon as he got it they called a foul" on Georgetown's Tony Bethel.
Bozeman entered the game making only 48 percent of his free throws and had missed four of six before his game-altering moment.
"I haven't been taking my time," he said. "The main thing is to focus, slow down and get the ball up."
He made both.
The Hoyas had little choice but to let Hall charge nearly the length of the court with Bowman's inbounds pass. Gerald Riley (20 points, 4 of 6 three-point attempts) had fouled out about 40 seconds earlier and the Bruins were guarding a long pass to Sweetney.
Hall dribbled down the right side of the court, with Bozeman keeping him as close to the sideline as possible. From about 28 feet, Hall shot -- and the ball bounced off the front rim an instant before the buzzer sounded and UCLA's nine-game losing streak had ended.
"He did a good job," Hall said of Bozeman. "But I had somewhat of a clean look."
Also unexpected for UCLA was the fine play of slender freshman center Ryan Hollins, who had exceeded his season high of 11 points by one before halftime. He once beat the un-alert Hoyas down the court for a dunk after a made free throw. Another time, he faked Courtland Freeman out of position near the free throw line, took one dribble and dunked again.
Even with the foul-prone Sweetney on the bench for nearly half the game, the Hoyas (10-9) gained a five-point lead with 5 minutes 40 seconds left on a run that included two free throws and a three-pointer by Hall and a three-pointer by Bethel. What followed especially irritated Esherick, who took just two questions during his postgame remarks.
"We let them back in the game too quickly," he said. "Offensively, we didn't do what we were supposed to do. Defensively, we didn't do what we're supposed to do."
With center Wesley Wilson out of the game because of what the school called a temporary leave of absence for personal reasons, Sweetney needed to be more aware of not fouling. He picked up his fourth foul less than two minutes into the second half, however, and played a total of 21 minutes, though he never fouled out.
Sweetney, who had 70 points in his last two games, had just eight shots yesterday and scored 10 points. He admitted to "silly fouls" and added: "I think it hurt my team a lot without me on the floor."
In less than two minutes, the Bruins (5-14) not only erased that five-point Georgetown advantage but also gained a three-point lead. Jason Kapono had two foul shots and a leaner during the surge and Bozeman's follow of a miss by Kapono lifted UCLA to a 64-61 lead. Riley had an air ball on a baseline drive, Bethel missed from the wing and guard Ryan Walcott stripped Sweetney during that time for the Hoyas.
The back and forth that followed featured three-pointers by Riley and Hall, the latter giving Georgetown a one-point lead before Bozeman's free throws.